The U.S. Senate will be finishing up today without having taken up a new COVID-19 relief bill. It will be out until July 20. In the meantime, most states are starting up a new fiscal year as of July 1, with plummeting revenues and no assurance that the federal government will provide aid to prevent service cuts and state and local government worker layoffs. From February through June, there have already been 1.5 million state and local worker layoffs, out of 15 million public sector workers. Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell reminded the Senate this week that the economic downturn would be prolonged, and that the “path forward will also depend on the policy actions taken at all levels of government to provide relief and to support the recovery for as long as needed.”
The pain Black people are feeling — that I am feeling — is not about one incidence of police violence and murder or even the highly visible state-violence we’ve witnessed over the past decade. It is not about one Amy Cooper or Starbucks incident. It is layers and layers of connected events that dehumanize Black people from public lynchings to the discrimination and microaggessions that happen in school, at work, while shopping, and while seeking help. It is quite literally death by a thousand cuts. Racism is killing us.
The moral fabric of a nation is determined by how well it provides for the poor in its midst. The federal budget is a moral document. To become a just society certain principles much underlie how we allocate our federal resources. The common good demands the right of all to have their basic human needs met. The health pandemic we are experiencing lays bare for all to see the deep economic and racial disparities ingrained in our system. Today in this wealthy nation, there are 140 million poor and low-income people.
CHN just released another edition of the Human Needs Report. Read on for the latest on Congress’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, work on FY21 spending bills and criminal justice reform, Supreme Court decisions, and more.
Looming Deadlines. The fourth of July recess is approaching, and Senate Majority Leader McConnell is still adamant that the Senate will not take up a COVID bill until they return on July 20, while the pandemic surges. That means most states will begin their fiscal years on July 1 without any assurance of more federal assistance for state or local governments, despite their already laying off 1.5m workers and cuts starting in three-quarters of America’s cities.
Millions of people joined in the Mass Poor People’s Assembly and Moral March on Washington on June 20. We did not stand shoulder to shoulder, but we did stand together. It was an online event, also broadcast on MSNBC and CSPAN, that achieved something rare, powerful, wise, and morally right: we listened to poor and near-poor people from across our nation. They told us about their constant struggles to secure habitable housing, clean water, adequate food, a job at a fair wage, and health care. They told of their determination to fight for something better. They were organizers for the Poor People’s Campaign, for labor unions, and for community organizations.
The latest edition of the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s KIDS COUNT Data Book is hot off the presses and the news regarding the well-being of children in the U.S. through 2018 is mostly good – with some major caveats. This year’s report found that children improved nationally in 11 out of 16 indicators, essentially stayed the same in three areas, and fell further behind in two others. Among the good news to celebrate: in 2018, more parents were economically secure and lived without a high housing cost burden. More teens graduated from high school and delayed childbearing. And progress was made in the area of children’s health coverage.
Calls for racial justice are spreading across the country and the world. COVID-19 has brought disproportionate death to Black Americans. Primary election calamities across the U.S. are making it more difficult for low-income and minority neighborhoods to vote. We can add prison gerrymandering to the list of things that have been included in recent Black Lives Matter protests and that allow us to question the integrity of the representation of BIPOC (Black and Indigenous people of color) and low-income communities in the United States.
For many college students, COVID-19 has become an inconvenience and created a series of disappointments. Students miss their friends, have had events or sports cancelled, missed out on a traditional graduation, and had to deal with a transition to online classes. But for low-income students, COVID-19 has presented a much more dire situation. Uncertainty about how many universities will handle a new semester come August has not eased the situation for many students who rely on their schools for housing and food security.
It is Juneteenth. On June 19, 1865, the U.S. Army reached Galveston, TX to tell enslaved Black Americans that they were free, 2 months after the Civil War had ended with Lee’s surrender at Appomattox. We celebrate freedom today, but we also must confront that we are not two months late, but 155 years late in ridding the nation of the scourge of racism. That scourge is killing Black Americans ages 45-54 at 7 times the rate of white Americans from COVID-19. It means more Blacks and Latinx are losing income from work during the pandemic than whites, more work in frontline jobs and cannot work safely at home, more Blacks and Latinx are poor, more do not have enough to eat, and more are falling behind in their rent.
We celebrate the Supreme Court’s ruling, but know that the real celebration of justice and human decency awaits Congress’ enactment of legislation to provide legal status and a path to citizenship for 700,000 DACA recipients and other immigrants who every day make essential contributions to our communities. That should happen with no delay and the Trump Administration should abandon its inhumane attempts to tear our neighbors from their homes and families.
At a time when millions of Americans are marching in support of black lives and to dismantle systemic racism, the Supreme Court Monday took an important step toward reversing another form of discrimination. The Court’s landmark 6-3 ruling banning discrimination against LGBTQ people in the workplace is a major step toward equality.